London, Day 10: Goldsmiths and Galleries and Quizzes, Oh My!
Gilded rooms. A double staircase. A ladies’ lounge larger than hotel’s dining room. I didn’t expect to see these at the Goldsmiths’ Hall, Library, and Assay Office. (Sadly, no photography allowed inside.) Yet, as Deputy Librarian Eleni Bide noted, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, the guild that oversees all precious metalwork in London, is “fabulously wealthy” from past member’s donations. While surrounded by these beautiful objects and building—many designed by Phillip Hardwick in the 1830s—most of the company’s money funds charities and educational programs.
After this introduction we examined objects from the company’s archives, ranging from a set of 1332 clerk’s notes to WWII utility hallmarks. We then toured the assay office with Dave Merry. Ensuring the quality of silver, gold, palladium, and platinum products sold within the UK, they assay 8,000-10,000 items each day! By seeing these techniques in practice we learned about the fundamental role this company continues to have.
We then returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum for our final visit. Here we had a curator’s tour of their newly opened European Galleries. Led by Liz Miller, we learned how they created this exhibit.
A display in the newly re-installed Europe Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum
To showcase the V&A’s neoclassical design and create a non-intrusive exhibit, their new walls don’t reach the ceiling or touch sidewalls. Also, light fixtures are placed to group objects together.
The Heritage Lottery Fund—which funded 7.5 of this 12.5 million pound exhibit wanted the V&A to incorporate a more diverse social history. Due to this they included a letter written by the joiners of the cabinet pictured above.
After this visit we were off to the home of a friend of the Winterthur Program, where we learned about the restoration and incorporation of Arts and Crafts, Athestics, and contemporary desings into his house.
After a much appreciated home cooked dinner, we then had quiz night! Identifying 20 objects ranging from a glove stretcher to a ruffle-iron holder, our last night in London ended with laughs good cheer.
By Samantha Nystrom, Master’s Student in English, University of Delaware